Part 6 out of 6
fight battles, to-night."
"Mama," she said, going back into the sitting-room where her mother
awaited her, "behold I am not a child any longer. I am grown up."
For the best part of the week, Mrs. Day, attending in the vague and
preoccupied manner which had been hers since Franky's death to her few
customers, marvelled greatly and with supreme uneasiness of mind about Mr.
Boult. He took no notice of her letter, he did not come to the house. "He
is too much offended," she said to herself, wondering what form the
vengeance she anticipated would take.
At length, unable to keep silence any longer on the subject, she
"I hope Mr. Boult was not very much annoyed at my leaving him on Thursday,
"He didn't say he was," said Bessie, pertly.
"But was he? You could judge from his manner, surely?"
"If you ask me, then, I don't think he cared a ha'penny."
"I wrote to him, you know, Bessie."
"That finished it, I suppose?"
"Well, I must say I expected an answer."
"Mr. Boult has been in London lately. Perhaps it slipped his memory."
"London? That explains it. But how do you know, my dear?"
"I happen to know," Bessie said, and escaped from further questioning.
On the morning of the day when Deleah and her mother were to look over the
house which Deleah had chosen for the scene of their new start in life,
the girl went down into the shop to help her mother take stock of her
stores of teas and sugars and soaps. The enterprising Coman, having done
his best to ruin the widow's trade, had intimated his willingness to take
the business over as it stood, and at once; leaving the family at liberty
to continue in the house until Christmas.
Having her younger daughter with her behind the counter, made her morning
in the shop a different thing to Mrs. Day. She lost the weary air of
hopelessness she had worn since Franky's death, talked cheerfully to her
customers, was brisk and alert over the business she and Deleah had to do.
"It is surprising that Mr. Boult, who has always insisted on having a
finger in everything, should leave all this to us," she once said. "Our
letter must have mortally offended him, Deleah."
"Never mind, mama; we will manage without him," Deleah promised. She felt
such happy confidence in herself. "We will work," she said. "There never
were two people who worked as you and I will work."
"And I am sure, in her way, Bessie will help," Mrs. Day loyally added; but
Deleah was not quick to admit Bessie to her scheme.
"Twenty-five lemons," said Mrs. Day, having counted the stock of that
commodity. "Two of them going bad. Say twenty-three, dear."
"Twenty-three lemons," repeated Deleah, entering that number in the
"Three whole, and one half tin of ginger-nuts, at eight-pence the pound."
"Three and a half tins--Oh, wait a minute, mama." She held her pen
suspended to look through the shop-window. She looked carelessly at first,
and then with intentness. A closed carriage was passing down the narrow
street, the wheel grating against the pavement had caused her to look up.
"There is some one, all in white, in that carriage," she said.
"All in white? Have you got the ginger-nuts down, dear? Three and a half
"It was some one so like Bessie. I believe it _was_ Bessie, mama."
"Bessie isn't likely to be sitting in a carriage, all in white. Say
'right' when you've got the items down, Deleah. Window sponges at
sixpence. Put down nineteen sponges at sixpence, Deleah."
"Wait a minute. I'd just like to run up to see what Bessie is doing. I
only caught a glimpse, but--I'll be back in one minute, mama."
Within that time she was back, a scared look on her face: "Bessie is not
in the house, mama." Mrs. Day looked up in mild surprise. "And Emily is
"The street door is locked, the key taken, and they are both gone."
"Emily has no right to go off like that in the middle of the morning.
Bessie should not allow it. I must speak to them both when they come home.
We got as far as the sponges--"
"Mama, it _was_ Bessie in white in that carriage--her face was turned
away, but I felt nearly sure. Some one was with her on the side farther
away; that was Emily." Deleah looked at her mother, as if questioning in
her own mind how much of the truth she could bear, before she went on.
"Don't be upset, mama. I was going to tell you something. I feel sure
Bessie is gone to be married to-day; and Emily has gone with her."
"Sit down for a minute. They have been so mysterious, all the
week--haven't you noticed?--and so busy; no one knew about what--"
"Married! Married! How can she be married? There is no one for her to be
"Do sit down. There is nothing to look so white about. Haven't you
guessed? I have guessed all along. It is Mr. Boult."
"Boult! Mr. George Boult?"
"Mr. George Boult!"
"Yes. Mr. George Boult. I keep telling you, mama. That day we wrote the
letter, I ran upstairs unexpectedly, and they were sitting on the sofa,
and that old man had got his arm round Bessie's waist."
"George Boult's arm? Bessie? _Our_ Bessie?"
"Yes. Now, don't faint, or begin to cry. I am certain they have gone to be
"Bessie never would! She never would! It is _awful_ of her! It can't be!
It can't be!"
"It _is_. I am sure of it as if I were in the church, seeing it done. Oh,
mama, _don't_ give way. _Don't!_ I have told you, so that when they come
back, here as they will--they will! in half an hour, you may be quite
brave, and not give way before them."
Deleah called Mr. Pretty from the cellar to the shop, and taking her
mother's arm led her to the sitting-room. "Now if you feel you _must_
collapse or cry, mama," she adjured her parent with a touch of the scorn
the younger generation felt for elders accustomed, in that day, to meet
all crises with tears and faints, or at the least wild gesticulation--"if
you _must_, do it now, and here; so that when they come you can be calm
"_Our_ Bessie!" Mrs. Day kept saying, wringing her hands and looking up
with appealing eyes swimming in tears. "Our Bessie! Our pretty, attractive
Bessie! And that man! That _old_ man!"
"It won't do to go on like that when they come, mama," Deleah warned her.
"You can't tell him he is old. You must not even tell Bessie so, now.
Bessie isn't like you and me, remember, who would have been wretched and
ashamed. She thinks of his money and his carriage. She does not think she
has played an underhand game. She thinks she has been cleverer than the
rest of us. She is pleased with herself, and proud, and Emily is proud of
her. Well, if you must cry--cry, mama. Cry all you can now, so, on no
account, you shed one tear before _them_."
By the time Bessie appeared--she came without her bridegroom, who had
thought a meeting with the mother of his bride would be, under the
circumstances, awkward--Deleah's exhortations had had their effect.
Bessie--partial to "scenes" and making them, of her own, on any
occasion--expecting one now was disappointed. She came in, in her white
dress and bonnet, her fair plump face flushed, her eyes twinkling in
anticipation of the sensation she was about to create, and found mother
and sister gravely awaiting her.
"Here I am! I am married, mama," she announced.
Instead of the outburst she had expected: "Yes, my dear, so I have been
hearing," Mrs. Day said. "I don't know why you need have kept it secret
from me, but now it is done, all I can do is to wish you every possible
It was disappointing: very flat and tame. Mrs. Day got up and kissed her
daughter, and Deleah followed suit.
"It would have been nicer for you to have mama and me with you at your
wedding, I should have thought," Deleah said. "Isn't Mr. Boult coming to
speak to us?"
"No," said a slightly crestfallen Bessie. "He thought there would be a
"It is too late to make a fuss, Bessie."
"Well, we thought so; and that there was no good in his being bothered; so
he's gone straight on to the station to wait for me. We go up to town by
the 1.20. I join him in half an hour. The carriage will wait."
"That's all right, dear. You'd better have something to eat before you
Emily was summoned to bring refreshments. The tray was already, having
been prepared before they left for church, and on it was a small
wedding-cake bought with Emily's savings, and a bottle of port purchased
from the same meagre fund.
The white sugared cake was to be a surprise to Bessie:
"A little present from me," Emily said as she set it on the table.
"Oh, you dear old thing! You must stop to eat some. Cut the cake, Deleah."
Deleah would not usurp the bride's privilege, and Bessie, attempting the
operation without removing her glove, split it down the palm! "There, I've
spoilt my glove!" she cried, and turned upon her sister. "That's your
fault, Deleah. You should have cut the cake when I asked you." Then she
began to cry. "I get married," she sobbed; "mama and Deda care no more
than if I had gone out for a walk. No one cares. They sit there and stare,
and won't say anything; no one cares."
"Oh, Bessie, my poor girl, God knows I care!" the mother said. "But what
can I say? It is done; what can I say?"
"Say s-s-omething! Don't sit there!" Bessie sobbed. "Deda might sew up my
glove, instead of s-s-sitting there."
Deleah had already found needle and cotton. "Take your glove off, Bessie."
Bessie tried to tear it from her hand. Her tears fell on the white kid.
"It is tight. I shall never get it on again. Oh, what shall I do, mama? I
have to be there in half an hour. What's the time now? No. I can't eat the
cake, Emily. You can eat it, and Deleah, when I'm g-g-gone. Little Franky
would have liked some. Poor little Franky. I--I always loved Franky, mama.
I'm--I'm crying now because of Franky."
They all cried then, and hushed and petted her, and made her drink a glass
of poor Emily's wine, which still further flushed her cheeks, and made her
laugh across her tears. Then they had to be stern with her, and scold her,
lest she should be in hysterics. And through it all she kept looking at
the clock on the mantelpiece. "Only five minutes more, mama! Deda, Emily,
only five minutes more!"
"Dear, you're going to see the London sights," Emily comforted her, the
tears raining down her own leather-coloured cheeks. "And your own
kerridge, and all! And your man in livery a-waiting at the door! And your
gentleman that fond of you, he could eat you a'most!"
But, in spite of these considerations, Bessie spent the last five minutes
in the room she had so grumbled at having to live in on the sofa, her head
buried in the pillow, her feet kicking, in the old ungoverned fashion,
upon the horsehair cover.
Deleah fetched her own hat and the cloak which was to cover Bessie's white
muslin for travelling, and eau-de-cologne wherewith to dab the
tear-stained cheeks. "I'm coming with you, Bessie, to the station," she
promised. "Emily must come too."
"I'm a-comin'," Emily, still in her bonnet and shawl, assured her. "Don't
you never think I'm a-goin' to leave you, my dear, till I'm forced to it.
And I may as well tell you, ma'am," she went on, turning to Mrs. Day,
"that when my young lady and her husban' returns from their honeymooning,
I'm a-goin' to live along of 'em. Sorry I am to part from you and Miss
Deleah, but Bessie have always come first with me, and always will do."
Then the five minutes were up: "Good-bye, mama dear."
"Good-bye, my own precious Bessie."
"I've got three new frocks, besides this; and I'm to have some more
afterwards. The luggage was such a trouble to pack, without you and Deleah
knowing! I hope I've got everything."
"You'll write, Bessie?"
"And you'll come and stay with me, mama? There'll be the carriage to drive
out in. It will make a nice change."
"It will indeed, dear."
"Is my bonnet straight? I had the forget-me-not wreath put in because you
always said blue was my colour."
"Go now, darling. There is not another minute."
"Oh, Mama! Mama! Mama!"
"Go instantly, Bessie. Deleah, take her downstairs--"
The bridegroom, dressed for the character in blue frock-coat, lavender
trousers, with gloves and tie to match, and a flower in his buttonhole,
was in waiting to help his bride to alight. He, who had never struck her
as looking so before, suddenly appeared quite old to Deleah, in spite of
his careful array, and the whiskers which had been oiled and curled.
Bessie with the forget-me-nots surrounding her plump, fair-skinned face,
looked almost a child in comparison.
"Late!" he said, smiling upon the ladies. "But better late than never, eh,
"That depends on how you look at these things," said Deleah, for the first
time in her life feeling the desire to be unpleasant.
"We sprang a surprise on you, eh?"
"We were not at all surprised, Mr. Boult."
"It will have to be 'George' now, won't it? We can't have Sister Deleah
'Mr. Boult-ing' me. Eh, Bess?"
"You may call him 'George,' Deda," said a magnanimous Bessie.
"Thank you," said Deleah, in the tone of one who is not at all grateful.
She followed the happy pair to the platform. Both were too smartly dressed
for ordinary travellers, and people, guessing them to be bride and
bridegroom, looked at them with interest.
"How they all stare! I hope they find us worth looking at."
"I always have thought you were, my dear," Mr. Boult said gallantly.
Quite a little crowd collected to see Bessie handed into the first-class
carriage, on which the word 'engaged' had been pasted: "We shall be alone.
I have seen to that," the bridegroom said, proud of his man-of-the-world
Deleah climbed into the carriage with her sister. "You wish you were
coming with us?" Mr. Boult inquired facetiously.
"Not at all!"
"Your turn will come. How about Mr. Gibbon? Now that Bessie is out of the
way you can have your chance."
"Good-bye, Bessie. I do so hope you may be happy."
"You're a lucky young lady, tha's what you are!" Emily said, putting her
head into the carriage. "You couldn't marry all of 'em what was in love
with you, Bessie; but you've made a wise ch'ice--"
The guard cut her eloquence short by slamming the door. Mr. Boult,
oblivious of the fact that Bessie might also have liked to show herself,
filled up the window. Emily, determined that no item of the ritual proper
to such ceremonies should be omitted, promptly threw a handful of rice in
his face. It stung, half blinded him, but had the effect of driving him
from his position, so that Bessie for one minute could appear. The poor
face in the white tulle and forget-me-nots looked anxious, frightened,
appealing; and as the train, rushing on, carried it from them the women
left on the platform looked at each other through eyes blinded with tears.
"Poor Bessie! She is such a child always," Deleah said.
"She is that, Miss Deleah. I tell you how 'tis with me and Bessie--spite
of her having such a way with her with the gentlemen, and such a will of
her own--I have always felt I haven't never lost the little girl I had to
wait on when first I come to service with your ma."
The Man With The Mad Eyes
The other women being employed in the daytime, the sitting-room had been
more especially Bessie's domain. How strange and chilling was the thought
it would be empty of Bessie for evermore. Her untidy work-basket peeped
out from under the sofa where she always pushed it on the appearance of a
visitor; the penny weekly paper in which she read of the fashions, and the
romantic love-matches of which she had dreamed while making an absolutely
sordid marriage herself, was tucked behind the cushion of her chair.
Deleah stood within the doorway for a minute, without entering, feeling
strangely bereaved and forlorn. Not much sympathy had been between the
pair, but the ties of blood are stronger than is realised till "marriage
or death or division" snaps the cord.
With a lagging step Deleah went forward into the so pathetically empty
room. On the table some flowers were lying. Two deep purple blooms of
clematis. The creeper so carefully trained to climb beside a certain hall
door came into her mind. She had noticed on an occasion she would fain
have forgotten, without knowing she had done so, that it bore two buds.
Deleah looked at the blossoms with an odd feeling of repulsion. She walked
round the table to the side that was farthest from them. Then lifting her
eyes, she saw that Charles Gibbon was standing by the opposite wall. The
open door had screened him from her on entering.
"Mr. Gibbon!" she said, and her voice faltered with dismay; only
apprehension was in her eyes.
He looked at her without speaking. It was curiously disturbing to see him
standing there, his back to the wall, saying nothing; the broad, short
figure, at one time so familiar in that room, now so alien and strange,
the commonplace, plain-featured face, tragic with its new grey hue, the
eyes--Deleah remembered with a shudder some words recently spoken about
the eyes! They were fixed upon her face.
"Won't you come and sit down, Mr. Gibbon?"
He advanced a few steps, and stood at the table opposite her.
She looked at the flowers. "You brought these?"
"For you," he said, speaking thickly. "They are the only two the clematis
had. If it had ten thousand they would have been for you."
Deleah kept her eyes upon the flowers. She felt that she could not touch
them. "You are very kind," she said.
"You would say as much as that to any stranger in the street who had
kicked a stone out of your path, and I--I--." He was stammering curiously
in his thickened voice. It seemed that the words he wanted to speak would
not come. "And I--after all that I suffer--only kind?" he got out at last.
With something of the expression of a trapped creature in her eyes, Deleah
looked past him to the door. He turned instantly, and shut it, and came
back to his place opposite her at the table.
"Your sister is married to Mr. Boult, to-day," he said. "At one time you
could not marry me because of your sister. That impediment's gone. Another
time, you had some other excuse. Again another. Come, what excuse have you
to-day?" He leant across the table to bring his face closer to hers. "You
don't intend to marry me, do you?"
She gazed at him with fear in her eyes, but did not speak. "You let me
live beside you, set my heart on you, till there was nothing else on earth
or heaven for me but you. You let me slave to serve a man I hated as a
means of getting you. You let me get ready my house--every brick in it,
every pound of paint laid on it, for you. You--"
"Mr. Gibbon, do wait! I think you are saying too much. I never deceived
you. I never said I would marry you. I tried to make you understand."
"Listen! Have you always hated me? When you took my flowers and fruit--all
the presents I lavished on you--tell me, did you hate me then?"
"Certainly I did not. I thought you very kind and generous."
"Do you hate me now?" When she told him 'no' he stretched out a shaking
hand to her across the table. "Then--?"
Deleah stepped back from the hand and shook her head.
"Oh, where would be the use of my telling you!"
"But you shall tell me."
"Then I will tell you. You think you are going to marry some one else."
Deleah lifted her head and looked at him with proud offence. "You are not
to say that, Mr. Gibbon. It is not true."
"You think so," he persisted. "But you are not. Do you know why? Because I
will stop you. I know! know! know!" He mercilessly slapped one of his
shaking hands upon the table. "And I will stop you."
He turned away, walked to the door, stood staring at it for a moment, his
back to her, then suddenly faced her again: "Sir Francis Forcus," he said.
He walked to the table his eyes fixed on hers. "Sir Francis Forcus," he
repeated. And once again, leaning across the table to bring his face close
to hers, "Sir Francis Forcus."
Then he laughed in the girl's frightened face, and went out of the room.
Emily put an inquiring head in at the door.
"He haven't gone? Mr. Gibbon haven't gone, Miss Deleah? Well, now, when
the mistress told me he was up along of you, I hoped 'twas another weddin'
comin' off. You shouldn't have let him go so quick, my dear."
Deleah had a dazed look about the eyes. "He was horrible! I believe he is
mad," she said.
Emily clapped her hands together. "Bessie's marriage have done that! I
always told Bessie she'd send some of 'em to the lunatic asylum, or their
"I believe he is mad. Which way did he go, Emily?" She ran down into the
shop where Mrs. Day, if daughters were married or daughters were
threatened, must never forget that she was licensed to sell tobacco and
snuff, was still toiling away at her stocktaking. "Mama, did you see Mr.
Gibbon go away?"
"No. Is he gone, my dear?"
Deleah dashed to the door, still open, although the windows were
shuttered, and looked up and down the street.
"Do you want to call him back?" her mother asked of her, in mild surprise.
"I believe he is mad." Deleah was breathless, shaking with excitement or
fear. "He was in the sitting-room--hiding behind the door--waiting for
"Mr. Gibbon! My dear, he couldn't have been. Why should he do that?"
"He was doing it. How did he get there?"
"He came in just as usual--there is really nothing the matter with him,
Deleah--to ask me if I knew where his pistol was that he and Franky used
to shoot at bottles with when he first came, out of his bedroom window.
You remember? I told him it was in his bedroom still, for all I knew; I
told him to run up and get it?"
"Did he get it? Had he a pistol in his pocket while he talked to me?"
Emily had followed Deleah into the shop. "He'd no pistol," she put in
confidently. "He'd never find it. I'd never liked the nasty dang'rous
thing, with Franky into every mischief, and I hid it up on the top of the
wardrobe. He'd never find it!"
"Run and see," Mrs. Day said. She began to be impressed by the look of
fear on Deleah's face; the girl was trembling violently, now, her teeth
chattering as if with extreme cold.
In less than a minute Emily was back. "He've got it," they heard her
calling as she came. "The pistol's gone. He've got it. Sure as we're
living, he's goin' to shoot hisself, on account of Bessie!"
"Nonsense!" Mrs. Day cried sharply. "Deleah, there is really nothing to be
frightened about, my dear. The pistol was Mr. Gibbon's own. He naturally
Deleah stood in the middle of the shop, lit by the half-open door and the
jet of gas above Mrs. Day's desk. She was squeezing her hands together,
her arms strained against her breast as if trying desperately to stop her
trembling. "Could I get there?" she said to her mother. "Could I get there
first?" Her body was bent forward as if with the impulse to run, but she
waited, squeezing herself in her arms, her brow knit, trying to steady her
thought. "If I can get there first--!" she said.
"Where, dear? Get where? What is it you want to do, Deleah?"
She seemed not to hear: "If I can get there first!" she said to herself;
then, going stumblingly, reached the door, and was gone.
The two women left, stared at each other's blank face in the mingled
lights of the shop. "She isn't running after Mr. Gibbon, surely!" Mrs. Day
said, helplessly perplexed.
"There's no good in her a-doing that. Gibbon's heart's set on Bessie,"
"Do go after her, and bring her back, Emily."
The great yard of the Hope Brewery was nearly empty. A young clerk, his
pen stuck in the bushy hair above his ears, his hands in his trousers
pockets, was whistling as he walked across it, stepping lightly from the
shadows cast by the huge buildings to the sunshine of the open spaces. An
enormous drayman was backing a pair of powerful horses, in order to bring
his wagon under that portion of the wall over which a barrel hung
suspended; two other men also of gigantic proportions, with red-shining
faces and aprons tied over their ample bodies, stood to watch the
manoeuvres. A groom in charge of a saddle-horse by the entrance to the
main building patted his horse's neck as he also looked on.
Deleah, flinging herself from the door of the four-wheeler which had
brought her, dashed through the yard, consciously seeing none of these
things, which yet photographed themselves on her brain and remained
indelibly printed there till her dying day. She knew her way to the
private room of Sir Francis, and made towards it, without pausing to heed
the one or two men who endeavoured to stop and question her. In the
ante-room to the inner sanctum, a confidential clerk who always sat there
flew up from his desk.
"Excuse me, miss. A moment, please. You can't go in there. Sir Francis is
When she took no notice, he tried to reach the door before her; but
Deleah, too quick for him, dashing forward, opened, and shut it in his
Sir Francis was standing in his favourite position with his back to the
mantelpiece, in riding dress, his gloves and whip in his hand. Deleah,
bolting into the room, and falling back upon the door, the more
effectually to close it upon the confidential clerk, had an instant's
vision of him in his calm unassailableness, in that unruffled perfection
of appearance, which, while it had always awakened her girlish admiration,
had ever seemed to remove him to an immeasurable distance. The sight of
him, even in what was to her a supreme moment, had its habitual effect of
pouring cold waters of discouragement upon her mood, of making her
doubtful of herself and any claim she could possibly make upon his
attention. She had been presumptuous in pushing herself into his presence.
Of course he was safe. Of course nothing could hurt him. The poor
Honourable Charles, the erstwhile draper's assistant, with his common,
thick-set figure, his hoarse voice, his unrefined accent--it was an
offence even to think of him in the same breath with this elegant
gentleman. How could this one on his high eminence of aloofness and
security be endangered by such an one as that?
To see and feel all this was the work of a moment. The moment in which she
slammed the door on the protesting clerk, the moment in which also she
felt the shock of awaking from her frenzied zeal that would have beaten
down all obstacles to save this man's life, to the perception that her
zeal would in his eyes seem an absurdity; that her presence there was
superfluous if not impertinent; that she had made a fool of herself for
Sir Francis suffered this inexplicable noisy invasion of his privacy with
a look of annoyance and surprise breaking up the composure of his face.
Then, seeing who it was who had thus burst upon him, who leant upon the
door she had slammed, panting as if pursued, turning frightened, appealing
eyes to him, the expression of his face changed, the whole man seemed to
change. With a look such as Deleah had never dreamed it possible he could
wear he went forward to her; in a tone she had not known his voice to
take, he spoke her name.
"Deleah!" he said.
She looked at him; but in rapturous wonder at the light in his eyes,
listening spellbound to the delight of her name so spoken, forgetting who
she was, where she was, in the whirl of bliss where her senses momentarily
swam. Then he held out his hands and took hers, and held them locked in
his against his breast.
"My dear child, I was coming to you," he said. "You have come to me
instead, my little Deleah!"
The Moment Of Triumph
"While you were in my house I reckoned up the years, many times." He
smiled a little sadly, and shook his head, looking down at her. "They
never grew any less, Deleah. There are twenty-five between you and me. It
is too much! Too much!"
"No!" breathed Deleah, with upturned, adoring eyes.
"And, dear, they are not the only things between us--dividing me from you.
A love I felt--a great love I thought never to feel again--in the past--"
He looked away from her, over her head into the years that were gone. Then
his eyes came back to the eyes that were lifted to him, and he grasped her
hands tighter against his breast.
"There was Reggie, too," he said. "Poor Reggie! But I made what reparation
I could. I gave him his chance. Did he ever have a chance, Deleah?"
She shook her head. "Never!"
"What will he say to us?"
There came a rap upon the door, and Sir Francis dropped the hands he held,
and started back. "I am particularly engaged, Rogers," he said.
The door was discreetly opened to admit not Rogers, but Rogers's voice: "I
beg your pardon, sir, but there is a matter of some importance; if you
could come for a few minutes."
"I have told you I am engaged," the voice of authority protested. With a
kind of discreet reluctance the door closed again, and Sir Francis, with
the impatience of a lover whose ardour has received a momentary check,
took the girl into his arms. With a hand pushed against his chest she held
herself away from him.
"Why?" he asked her. "You are not afraid of me, Deleah?"
"Yes. Very much afraid."
"Tell me why, my dearest child?"
"Oh, you know," said Deleah, turning away her head.
"No! It is I who should be afraid of you; you, with your youth and beauty,
and sweet and gentle goodness. I confess it--all those months you lived in
my house, I was afraid."
"You said there were things between us--dividing us. You did not say what
really is there. What papa did--"
As she faltered over the words there came a louder knocking upon the door,
which opened almost at the same minute. Mr. Rogers's deprecating face
appeared there, and behind it the face of a policeman.
"A minute, sir. I won't detain you a minute," the clerk said; and Sir
Francis walked to the door with an impatient step and closed it behind
Deleah, left to herself--was it for an hour? was it for a minute?--looked
with eyes dazed with happiness upon the hands that had been crushed in
"I used to think that to be loved by him would be heaven," she said. "And
now--now I feel nothing. I am numb."
He came back very grave, his face unusually pale. "Your cab is waiting. I
will take you home, my dear child," he said.
She crossed the big yard again at his side. The drayman was still at his
horses' heads, the groom was taking the riding-horse round to the stables.
On the opposite side of the yard beneath one of the arches of a heavy
colonnade, a couple of policemen stood. One of them was making notes in a
book. A group of workpeople stood near by; and Deleah remembered
afterwards that there was about them and the rest an air of suspending
something they were saying or doing while their chief and the girl at his
side walked to the great entrance gates.
"A cab was waiting, by good luck," Sir Francis said as he put her in it,
and Deleah awoke, it seemed to her, for the first time since he had called
her name as she leant against his door, to full consciousness.
"It was mine," she said. "I took it to get to you quickly--before you
started for home. I was afraid you might be hurt. A man--the man who used
to lodge with us--came to me this afternoon, and he threatened you. I was
so foolish--I believed he meant it. I was afraid. I thought, as you rode
past his house to Cashelthorpe, he would wait there, behind the hedge, and
shoot you. I seemed to see him doing it. So foolish of me! Of course he
was simply frightening me; he would not dare--" She lifted the adoring
eyes to his face as he sat beside her. Who would dare indeed to harm that
Excellence! "I was afraid he had gone mad," she said, excusing the folly
of her thought.
"Poor fellow, I think he had," Sir Francis said. He held her face turned
to him, its pure oval in his hand. "Was it love of you that made him mad,
She was too shy of him yet, and too modest to answer the question by word
of mouth; but he knew the answer.
"He won't trouble you any more, Deleah," he said very gently. "He won't
hurt me. He is dead."
She would not believe it. It was impossible. "He can't be! He was with me
half an hour ago. He was well as I am, and very strong. He can't be dead!"
"He seems to have come to the Brewery-yard--why we shall never know.
Perhaps with some mad intention towards me. Perhaps--. But it is all
conjecture. All we know is that he is there now. Dead."
"Was he there before me? Did he see me running through the yard--to you?"
"No one knows. No one noticed him till they found him lying behind one of
the pillars of the colonnade, shot through the head. I am going back there
now. They want me."
He lifted her from the cab and stood beside her till Emily opened the
door: "I will be with you again as soon as I can, my darling child," he
promised; and got into the cab again and drove away.
Deleah, creeping up the stairs, shut the door of the sitting-room upon
Emily, voluble of questions but getting no satisfactory answers. Shaken
with emotion, weak and shivering, she stood looking round the empty room,
peopling it with its familiar circle. There was Bessie's place, and there
Franky's especial chair. There, by the little table on one side of the
fire the boarder had sat every evening, book in hand, but eyes wandering
ever in Deleah's direction. She spoke, or laughed, or sighed, and the
change in his face showed that he listened. Bessie had to call his name
sharply twice before his attention was gained. Franky would ask some
question about the mixing of his paints. The man would answer with a kind
of anxious politeness, getting up to look over the child's shoulder.
Passing Deleah, he would stoop for the book he had purposely dropped by
her chair. "I love you!" she would hear his fierce low whisper in her ear.
She had been too depreciative of herself, too innocent of the workings of
passion, to have felt anything but irritation and annoyance at the signs
in him of a suffering she could not believe in or understand. Was it
possible, after all, that she, Deleah, whose heart was so tender, whose
ways so pitiful, who saved the drowning flies and would not willingly have
afflicted the meanest of God's creatures, by means of a pale and pretty
face only, had wrought that havoc?
With a sob in her throat she came forward into the room. Upon the table
were lying the two purple clematis flowers, backed by a spray of their own
foliage and tied with the tendrils of the plant. Deleah recalled the
repulsion with which she had seen them lying there. She put out her hand
towards them, but drew it back. She could not touch them even now.
To each of us, however mean our lives and obscure our history, living or
dead, the moment of triumph comes. To Charles Gibbon his came, when
Deleah, forgetful of her new-found bliss, and the Heaven of Happiness
opening before her, laid her head upon the table beside the poor blooms of
the clematis flower, and as if her heart were broken, cried for the fate
of the Honourable Charles.